Friday, April 29, 2011

Pay-to-Play Contributors to Sales-Tax Campaign

It's a matter of public record. The committee titled "Citizens for Community Improvement" formed to support the now-passed ballot measure to raise the sales tax by one percent should have been called "Companies for Balance-Sheet-Improvement."

  • Of the more than $75,000 listed in contributions, the large majority are not single "citizens" but companies and vendors with long-standing relationships with the Charleston County Schools District.

  • In fact, Heery International ($2500) and Southern Management Group ($4500 and $5500) are in contention for long-term contracts related to the construction funded by the new tax.

  • Other companies and associations contributing $1000 or more include Brownstone Construction Group ($2000), Charleston Trident Association of Realtors ($5000 and $10000), Clawson and Staubes LLC ($2500), Construction Dynamics ($1000), Gilbane Building Company ($3000), Haynesworth Sinkler Boyd PA ($5000), Jumper Carter Sease Architects PA ($1000), KLG Jones LLC ($1000), LS3P Associates ($2500), Maybank Properties ($2500), McMillan Smith and Partner Architects PLLC ($2500), MWV ($5000), Roper St.Francis Healthcare ($1000), The Beach Company ($5000), Thompson Construction Group ($5000)

  • Get the picture?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Toya Green: CCSD Board Member MIA

  • Should Toya Hampton-Green resign from her position as a member of the Charleston County Schools District Board of Trustees?

  • Are other activities taking too much of her time, or has she decided her position is merely honorary?

  • We should ask these questions since Green has missed so many scheduled meetings in the last couple of months.

  • That would be at least the last three Board meetings, the most recent budget workshop, and the last two finance committee meetings.

  • As an elected official, Green owes her constituents her presence, at the very least.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

CCSD's Chump Change: $2.1 Million iPads

  • Sorry to be repetitive, but something is rotten in the state of Denmark, as Hamlet once noted.

  • Shakespeare's version involved sleeping with the enemy, but in the case of the Charleston County Schools District, "rotten" describes capital funding streams that leave Michael Bobby, CCSD's financial officer asking, "How can I get this $2.1 million off my hands and into the hands of my contractors without the taxpayers' raising questions about waste when teachers are being furloughed and staff reduced?"

  • Even Brian Hicks notes the tin ear of the CCSD Board of Trustees in his Wednesday column: "While they are facing a massive budget shortfall." "When the academic value of these gadgets has yet to be proven."

  • Two Wednesday Letters to the Editor also sum up the frustrations of the public, noting that "we played this game a few years ago with SmartBoards" and before that with computers in every classroom.

  • Where is the evidence that technology has advanced achievement?

  • Oh, sorry, I forgot. School districts don't worry about evidence; they go with the trends. They experiment on children. How many "new math" victims still have problems with basic computation? How many high school students can figure a percentage without whipping out a calculator?

  • It seems that CCSD will have so much surplus capital from its new one-percent sales tax that saving this $2.1 million for future projects just doesn't make sense.

  • That's chump change. Think about it--what else could be done with $2 million in CCSD?

Friday, April 15, 2011

CCSD Board Members Touch Sacred Cows

  • No wonder Superintendent Nancy McGinley has brought out the big guns--letters solicited from the Mayor; scolding emails solicited from the Board chair; outraged op-eds from the NAACP.

  • Now this: Four unruly Board members want to investigate what benefits the district gets for its contributions to sacred-cow nonprofits, contributions from an operating budget projecting a $26 million shortfall next year.

  • In their first swing at a cow, members Moffly and Kandrac refused to vote for $50,000 awarded to the Charleston Promise Neighborhood. Not to put too fine a point on it, Board member Toya Hampton-Green's husband heads that particular non-profit, and the Superintendent sits on its Board of Directors. Can you say, "conflict of interest"?

  • Although that particular sacred cow escaped with the cash, Board members Coats and Taylor now want to scrutinize the benefits gained from other nonprofits receiving funds from the district. Can you say, "edublob"?

  • Surely they can't be serious? Why, they might need to scrutinize the funds paid to the nonprofit headed by the Mayor's sister!

  • Long-time readers of this blog will remember the point made some time ago: nonprofit does not mean it's not profitable for someone. A good look at salaries paid to those in charge should be in order.

  • Let's not forget: the money for these nonprofits comes from the operating budget, the same one whose shortage of funds has created furlough days and staff layoffs. Now's a good time to focus on the primary mission of the district.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Darby Creates "Straw Man" to Argue for Rivers

  • In his (dare we say it?) bi-monthly column Thursday masquerading as an op-ed piece for the P&C, vice-president of the Charleston Area NAACP, Joseph Darby, uses demeaning language against Charleston County School Board members Moffly and Taylor. He also insinuates that those two Board members are racist for raising the possibility of putting Lowcountry Tech (that phantom school) at the Burke campus.

  • Darby, a non-native of Charleston, non-graduate of its schools, and non-resident of its peninsula, lectures Moffly and Taylor on Burke's history as a "place for minimal vocational training" and "'a place to supply cooks, maids and delivery boys,'" information that he has gleaned from reading about CCSD's history.

  • Carrying his arguments to their logical conclusion, putting Lowcountry Tech at Burke would be a racist action. Strange, isn't it? A program providing access to future high-tech jobs he rates in the same category as training cooks, maids, and delivery boys?

  • Darby's prism seeks out white racism at every turn, action, and word. There are no exceptions. The reality is that Darby himself is racist. Such an attitude should disqualify him from his post with the NAACP and ought to give those pause who view him as a Christian pastor.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Mayor Riley Butts in on CCSD Board's Business

  • Not to put too fine a point on it, does the mayor of Charleston have any legal power within the Charleston County School District? Answer: no.

  • But that doesn't mean he can't throw his weight around, especially when the long-time support of the Charleston Area NAACP is at risk. Can you say "primary"?

  • Board chairman Chris Fraser has received a letter from the mayor, no doubt solicited personally by Charter School for Math & Science haters. Basically it says "Damn the torpedos! Full speed ahead" with plans to place the fabled Lowcountry Tech at the Rivers campus along with CSMS.

  • His letter does not address (1) what should happen to its auditorium; (2) the desire of Burke supporters to place the program at Burke; (3) the success of CSMS leading to potential permanent use of trailers; or (4) the likelihood of our seeing the fruition of the phantom program during the next decade.

  • What Riley has signaled is that he personally resents the success of CSMS. Considering how long Riley has been mayor, if he has influenced past CCSD Boards (which seems likely), the mess we have now in the district belongs at his doorstep. He can't have it both ways.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Reading On-line in CCSD: Not a Kindle

  • No one should fault the Charleston County School District for spending thousands for on-line books for students to read, as reported by the P&C in Monday's edition. After all, since the money comes from capital funds, it can't be used for the operating budget, where it is really needed.

  • The issue is, are teachers being given the training to use these programs effectively? Connie Diopierala, CCSD's district coordinator for media services, says such training is in the works, but won't those funds come straight out of the operating budget?

  • Meanwhile, students enjoy reading books on-line. As one says, "'It's like they give sound effects, and they read the books for us.'"

  • Before you explode, consider that third graders are being interviewed. What's not clear yet is if such experiences raise reading ability. At present no measures exist.

  • In fact, North Charleston Elementary's media specialist says that she "hopes teachers receive the training they need so they can make the most of the expanded collection."

  • And that it doesn't function merely as a babysitter while the teacher attends to other pressing needs.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Six CCSD High Schools Honored

  • Garrett Academy, Wando, Military Magnet, School of the Arts, Academic Magnet, and James Island Charter: what are these schools doing right?

  • Whatever it is, it is working. All have been recognized with a Palmetto Gold or Silver award for general performance, an honor granted to only 42 schools statewide.

  • However, only one of these, Wando, is neither a charter nor a magnet school. Mmm. It's had the same principal for several years--is a lesson there?

  • Maybe the state needs two lists--one for "regular" schools and another for charters and magnets. Yet, even though the magnets have skimmed most of the "cream" from CCSD's "regular" high schools, that does not excuse the rest from not closing the achievement gap. Magnets and charters cannot be blamed for failures there.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

P& C Publishes Meyers's Rambling Whine

Would you like some cheese with that, Gregg?

  • Poor Superintendent McGinley! Imagine, some elected members of the Charleston County Schools Board of Trustees have found fault with her lack of transparency and responsiveness to questions.

  • But wait, here comes a knight in shining armor to her defense! Take that, Elizabeth Moffly. Let fly the insults! Remove the gloves! Poor Elizabeth can't even add and subtract.

  • Well, so says Gregg Meyers, former Board member and McGinley champion.

  • In his op-ed piece published in Wednesday's P & C, Meyers forays that McGinley hasn't been responsible for academics at North Charleston and Stall High Schools for the six years that Board member Moffly claims. Come on, Gregg, you know perfectly well that McGinley was Chief Academic Officer for two years before she became superintendent. That does total six.

  • The rest of Meyers's weapons don't work well either. For example, a greater percentage of schools rate as Excellent because the criterion used by the ratings changed. The district has fewer failing schools because McGinley closed so many of them.

  • Thanks to the hard work of teachers in the district, often under trying circumstances such as the new-principal-each-year phenomenon, CCSD trudges forward on the uphill track. Meanwhile, waste at 75 Calhoun and suspected fraud in building contracts continue. McGinley has done nothing to merit the affection of the taxpayers or their elected representatives.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

CCSD's Mixed Signals to Ordinary Taxpayers

  • Just when the Charleston County School District had almost convinced John Q. Taxpayer that it really is short of cash to run the district, comes the latest spending atrocity: potential I-Pads for every student.

  • Yes, you can believe your eyes: for every student. Wow, we must be a really wealthy district!

  • The insane nightmare that funds school districts in South Carolina just gets worse and worse. Thanks to how capital funds are raised, not to mention the new one-percent sales tax, CCSD is rolling in extra capital funds. How to spend them! [hand-wringing] Oh, how to spend them!

  • Why, yes! I-Pads can be paid for with capital funds. How jolly.

  • Those who keep their finger on the district's pulse know the firewall that exists between capital and operating funds, but it's useless to repeat that only the ignorant will recoil at this unnecessary use of tax dollars. Common sense itself is moribund.

  • And why does the district have $2 million lying around to use anyway? Bill Lewis's personal slush fund?

  • Would anyone like to guess what percentage of I-Pads would be accounted for and still working at the end of one semester?

Monday, April 04, 2011

Problems? CCSD's Hire-and-Spend Mentality

  • Credit card use in the Charleston County School District makes a lot of sense, but responses to various problems in its implementation reveal the usual mindset of the district.

  • Missing documentation for purchases? Lack of review by supervisors? Hire a new program coordinator

  • Not sure if purchases are relevant to ongoing needs? Buy monitoring software

  • What's the cost of the software? It's a secret

  • The new hire will be paid for by "$48,000 credited to the district for the use of the cards"?Say what? The bank is paying the district $48,000 [per year?] to use its cards? Can the rest of us get in on that deal?

  • Michael Bobby doesn't want to embarrass any miscreant, so taxpayers are left to guess if anyone has been fired over misuse of credit cards? What do you think?

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Nonsense from McGinley Shill Fraser

  • "Individual members [of the CCSD Board of Trustees] have zero authority over anyone, including the Superintendant [sic]." That includes your non-existent authority over other Board members, Chris.

  • " Staff in schools or at the district offices are placed in a very awkward position when a board member directs or asks them to do something without their bosses [sic] knowledge or direction. . . their boss is the Superintendant [sic]." Now, which is it: directs or asks? Do something such as answer a question? Chris, you mean that every employee in every school and at 75 Calhoun must ask permission of McGinley before answering a question? No wonder she has so many associates.

  • "If the majority of the Board does not support an individual Board members [sic] idea or request, no employee of the District is required to do anything about it." Chris, a big difference exists between an "idea" and a "request." As a commercial real estate agent, you should know it.

  • "9 [sic] people providing different directions to any employee creates chaos and destroys the chain of command, not to mention takes them [sic] away from their [sic] primary job." You, of course, can show that all nine Board members have done just that? or are you exaggerating for effect? Or is this simply the "slippery slope" fallacy?

  • "Any ideas, complaints, concerns, etc [sic] be directed to me and I will relay them to the Superintendant [sic] as called for in the contract." Ah, the gatekeeper! It seems that Board members have fewer rights that the general public.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

No-Confidence Vote for CCSD Chair Fraser

  • First, anyone who can't spell "superintendent" should not be chairman of a school board, much less one like Charleston County's that presides over what might gently be called a "mixed bag" of achievement! Chris Fraser, Chair of the CCSD Board of Trustees, was so eager to muzzle other board members that he forgot to spellcheck the letter he sent out on his Grubb & Ellis (!) stationery. He also revealed his inability to use apostrophes, but we quibble.

  • What's much more important is that Fraser sees his role as a bulwark against the legitimate questions posed by less obsequious members to the superintendent and members of her staff. His memos to the point begin to sound frantic. Perhaps both the superintendent and Fraser sense the ground shifting under them, and no amount of seismic evaluation will save them.

  • Fraser's actions and memos have revealed that he does not know parliamentary rules and considers himself a mouthpiece for Nancy McGinley. The Superintendent plays hardball. Members who disagree with this tactic should not allow this charade to continue.

  • It's time for a vote of no confidence, not a time to acquiesce silently to his browbeating.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Common Sense Solutions to Rivers Campus

  • The auditorium at the former Rivers High School building should be saved and revitalized for the benefit of both CCSD as a whole and the surrounding community.

  • As it grows, the Charter School for Math and Science, the district's most integrated school, should be allowed to fill in any available space in the Rivers building.

  • CCSD should set up its promised Lowcountry Tech at Burke High School, a place desired by both Burke parents and the majority of the District 20 community. When and if the Lowcountry Tech outgrows Burke's capacity, CCSD should build an addition to the Rivers building to receive the then-successful program.

  • There. Community members, not merely yours truly, thinking outside of the box. KISS method.